Climate change has caused and exacerbated tensions, violent and armed clashes. And in the future, the scenario could get even worse
Drought, poverty, struggle for resources and social tensions have always been at the root of conflicts. What happens to these phenomena if the climate changes? In recent years more and more experts have hypothesized and demonstrated the connection between climate change and the increase in armed clashes. Estimates show that 3 to 20% of conflicts, which took place over the last century, have been influenced by climate variability. According to a recent study published in Nature, the intensification of climate change will lead to increased tensions. If the average temperature of our planet will increase by 2 °C compared to pre-industrial levels, as established with the Paris Agreement on climate, the risk of conflicts may increase by up to 13% compared to historical trends. The situation will become even more worrying if we fail to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If the temperature reaches + 4 °C, the likelihood of more and more conflicts occurring or wars being more violent and destructive will increase by 26%.
According to experts, the link between climate change and conflict seems undeniable, even if the estimates are still uncertain and other factors - such as low socio-economic development - are more influential in disputes.
Migrations and conflicts over water control
If we consider a more specific cause such as the lack of water, there are many examples of tensions and conflicts triggered by the availability, the type of management and the will to control this resource.
The war in Syria, for example, was preceded by a drought that, from 2006 to 2010, forced 1.5 million people to migrate from the countryside to the cities due to the death of cattle and the destruction of crops. The wrong choices in the management of water and the agricultural system, combined with climatic factors, have led to an explosion of ethnic conflicts and to the control of water resources, which then resulted in one of the biggest crises of our times.
In Asia the construction of the Farakka dam in 1951 along the course of the Ganges river has created tensions between India and Bangladesh where, due to lack of water during the dry season, the migratory pressure along the border of the two states has triggered numerous conflicts. Sometimes, also too much water can create friction and international unrest. Still in Bangladesh, more than 5 million inhabitants live in highly vulnerable areas due to the action of cyclones and hurricanes, and more than half of the population lives in coastal areas exposed to sea level rise, salinization and groundwater pollution. For these reasons thousands of people are forced to abandon their lands and migrate to the Indian region of Assan, clashing with the native populations for access to resources.
The list of these examples could continue by considering different countries from South Sudan to Uzbekistan, from Nigeria to Bolivia. Climate change, if inserted in contexts that are already delicate from a geopolitical point of view, can lead to conflicts, sometimes even armed.
The commitment of Istituto Oikos
To avoid climate change leading to conflicts, it is necessary to work in synergy with the communities by promoting a more responsible use of resources and limiting the consequences of extreme weather phenomena.
Istituto Oikos has been dealing for years with the climate emergency in the countries of the South of the world.
We strengthen the resilience abilities of rural communities, and together we seek solutions that integrate traditional adaptation strategies with new tools and skills. In Tanzania we work with the Maasai pastors, promoting sustainable practices to limit travelling to search for new fertile lands and water. As well as to avoid conflicts with other farmers and resident peasants. We inform and encourage citizens to take action to protect the environment and stimulate them to adopt more responsible lifestyles.
Sometimes prevention is not enough and action must be taken in response to environmental disasters. In the spring of 2019, two unprecedented cyclones caused by wind and rain have caused considerable damage in Mozambique. In the province of Cabo Delgado, in the North of the country, Istituto Oikos is working to support the population in the reconstruction of houses and to guarantee the best hygienic-sanitary conditions to strengthen the resilience of local communities and avoid unsustainable migrations.